Published: 17:31, May 29, 2024
Lai Ching-te puts peace in Taiwan Strait at risk
By Zhou Bajun

Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s new leader, went further than his predecessors Tsai Ing-wen and Lee Teng-hui in advocating “Taiwan independence” during his inaugural speech on May 20.

Unlike his predecessors, Lai called the other side of the Taiwan Strait “China” instead of “the mainland”. He blatantly peddled the notion of Taiwan’s “sovereignty”, claiming that whether it is called “Republic of China”, “Republic of China in Taiwan”, or Taiwan, it is the name of “our country”. In a provocative tune, Lai said, “China is the greatest challenge to global peace”, and that “Taiwan must strengthen national defense” to fend off the “annexation” of Taiwan.

Lai tried to deny the shared history of, and to sever the emotional ties between, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, promoting a twisted historical view that emphasizes the Dutch’s access to Taiwan in 1624.

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The so-called “peace overtures” made by Lai, such as the resumption of cross-Strait tourism and admission of mainland students in Taiwan, are all premised on his “two states” notion.

Lai and his cohorts are no doubt emboldened by Washington. A group of United States congressmen attended Lai’s inauguration “in an unofficial capacity”. Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state in the Trump administration, was also present. The incumbent secretary of state, Antony Blinken, publicly congratulated Lai while hypocritically emphasizing the need to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait. Indeed, the Biden administration is more supportive of the separatists in Taiwan than the Trump administration was. Washington has made it a strategy to drive a wedge between Chinese people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as part of a broader strategy to contain China.

Washington has repeatedly proclaimed that it upholds the one-China principle. But both the Trump and Biden administrations have enacted bills, adopted measures, and made moves that have emboldened “Taiwan independence” advocators. For example, the Biden administration and some US lawmakers brazenly attempt to misrepresent the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, adopted in 1971, which made it clear that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, including Taiwan, at the UN; Taiwan is not a country but a part of China’s territory.

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Lai’s provocative rhetoric has raised concerns in some Western countries. On May 21, Bloomberg quoted two sources as saying some US officials had privately expressed concerns about the consequences of a potential military operation against the island.

For sure, Beijing will never tolerate actions that aid or embolden Taiwan separatism. On May 20, the Chinese authorities added three US companies that have provided weapons to Taiwan to China’s unreliable entities list. On May 21 and 22, sanctions were imposed on former US lawmaker Mike Gallagher, 12 US military industrial enterprises and their 10 senior executives over arms sales to Taiwan. On May 23, the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conducted the Joint Sword-2024A military drills near Taiwan.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.